Xavier education students are helping a local high school win a visit from the President

Cincinnati's Clark Montessori is one of six schools in the U.S. chosen by the White House as finalists | April 23, 2010

Visitors to campus and Xavier employees are being asked to cast a vote for Clark Montessori High School, one of six public schools nationwide chosen by the White House as finalists in President Barack Obama’s Race To The Top High School Commencement Challenge. The winning school earns an appearance by the President at its graduation ceremony.

Xavier students who are members of Xavier's Education Club are posting flyers, sending out e-mails and giving out cookies to help garner votes for Clark. The voting takes place from Monday, April 26, through Thursday, April 29, at the White House web site, and Christina Strayer, a junior Montessori education major and president of the Education Club, is assembling club members to staff a table with a computer at the McDonald Library where visitors can go online and vote. Every voter gets a cookie, Strayer said.

“It’s a Montessori high school, and Xavier’s Montessori department is really involved with all the Montessori schools, and the department asked if we’d do this for them,” Strayer said. “Xavier has such a tight connection with all the Montessori schools in the Cincinnati Public Schools. We do all our Montessori public school teaching in them.”

Part of the Cincinnati Public Schools, Clark Montessori is the nation’s first public Montessori high school. Founded in 1994 because of parent demand for a Montessori junior and senior high school, Clark has nearly 659 students in grades 7-12. Nearly 100 percent of Clark seniors graduate and go to college.

Xavier has had a longterm relationship with Clark and all of the Cincinnati district’s Montessori elementary schools. Through its contract with the district, Xavier’s Montessori Teacher Education Program provides Montessori certification for teachers, professional development for teachers and administrators, and curriculum and program guidance in the schools, including assistance in Clark’s founding. Many of Clark’s teachers earned their Montessori certification from Xavier, and Xavier’s Montessori education majors do all their public school student-teaching at the district’s Montessori schools—including Clark.

Gina Lofquist, director of Xavier’s Montessori program, said the fact that Clark is in the Race To The Top competition helps promote and bring national exposure to the strength of the Montessori teaching philosophy. Xavier was the first in the nation to offer a graduate-level Montessori program.

“It’s a pedagogy that is finally getting recognition, and it’s through the children that it’s happening,” Lofquist said. “All their lives, these kids have been in Montessori schools that Xavier has helped support and develop, and the beauty of it is it’s the parents and children that made that happen. We at Xavier helped lay the foundation so others could take it to the next level.”

The school got the call on Thursday, April 8, from White House staff, who told school officials that Clark was one of six finalists in the competition that Obama announced in February. The school was selected based on an application completed by a group of seniors that included four essay questions, achievement data and a two-minute video promoting Clark’s attributes. The six schools were selected based on evidence of their ability to graduate students to be ready for college and careers.

Since then, Team Obama—the group of Clark seniors who initiated Clark’s application—have produced another video about Clark. The video is posted on the White House web site along with the other finalist schools’ videos. Public voting takes place from Monday, April 26, through Thursday, April 29, and Obama will select the winning school from the three top vote-getters on May 4.

Strayer said it’s important that everyone—including Xavier students, faculty and staff—vote for Clark because “I think it’s fantastic that a Cincinnati Public School is chosen as a top school,” she said. “We’re trying to spread the word and make everyone aware of what’s going on.”